Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre has been hit by a series of delays (various reasons have been given, with the fact it features Ukrainian mobsters thought to be the main one), but Guy Ritchie’s latest movie finally arrives in theaters this Friday, March 3. Was it worth the wait? While it’s far from his best work, the director still injects his sometimes lifeless action comedy with enough charm and swagger to elevate the material beyond what, on paper, is a fairly by-the-numbers spy thriller.
The story revolves around Special agent Orson Fortune and his team of operatives after they recruit one of Hollywood's biggest movie stars to help them on an undercover mission when the sale of a deadly new weapons technology threatens to disrupt the world order. So, as noted, it’s mostly familiar territory and the movie doesn’t quite take advantage of the potential comedy gold a Hollywood A-Lister finding himself thrust into the world of espionage might have. On the plus side, Ritchie directs the hell out of Operation Fortune, delivering some pulse-pounding action scenes and snappy dialogue.
Delivering that is a superb cast tasked with playing characters who definitely don’t fall into the category of spy movie clichés. There are those that fit certain archetypes, yes, but Jason Statham and Aubrey Plaza is a pairing we never knew we needed but would love to see much more of in future. Both serve as the movie’s biggest scene stealers, with Statham bringing his usual level of badassery and Plaza wowing as a sultry tech expert who knows her way around a computer and some risqué double entendres. The always-brilliant Hugh Grant impresses, while Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes, and Bugzy Malone all deliver solid supporting turns.
Where the movie stumbles is with its main premise; it’s all so familiar that it can be hard to care about much beyond the characters themselves, and some moments feel downright unremarkable. The movie is at its best when Ritchie is clearly having a blast behind the camera, with scenes necessary to slow things down and strengthen the story falling by the wayside seemingly because the filmmaker was as uninterested in tackling those as we end up being in watching them. In the hands of anyone else, this could have led to disaster, but there’s thankfully enough style to forgive any lack of substance.
Operation Fortune's budget may be to blame for that, as it does occasionally feel like it's missing the polish of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Gentlemen, for example. Ritchie clearly set out to make the best out of what he has to work with, though, and grounded action scenes in place of far-fetched fluff are welcomed.
Still, there’s plenty of fun to be had watching Operation Fortune, and with a title that suggests this was viewed, at least at one point, as a franchise starter, we can’t help but hope to see more of Statham’s tough-as-nails spy. Whether it’s taking advantage of the government’s mental health and wellbeing program to ensure he can enjoy private flights and fine wines or casually throwing a goon off a balcony, he’s like James Bond…but cooler. It’s a shame the same couldn’t be said for the movie itself, but Ritchie’s direction is enough for a guaranteed good time with this pulpy, action-packed spy caper.
Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre is an enjoyable Guy Ritchie romp hampered by an all-too-familiar story but redeemed by explosive action and one of Jason Statham’s most swagger-filled performances to date as Bond-beater Orson Fortune.